Just ask Tom Martino.
On a post titled "Westword Cowards" that Martino originally published August 17 on the Channel 31/Fox blog, he included a photo of a man identified as "Jared Jacang Maher," the author of "The Martino Matrix," an article in the July 23 Westword. Just one problem: The photo was of Adam Cayton-Holland, a former Westword staff writer and popular standup comic who thought it was funny a few years ago to wear Maher's name tag at a media party — where a photo was taken that wound up on the web, a photo that Martino relied on for his "Westword Cowards" piece.
Maher used the web for some of his reporting, too. But he also watched the June 23 episode of Martino TV, Martino's new show on Fox/The Deuce, in which the longtime Troubleshooter hyped Efusjon, an energy drink that comes with "a business opportunity," he told his audience. Matt Klaess, the owner of American Guaranty Financial and a regular sponsor of the Troubleshooter's shows on both radio and TV, is pushing Efusjon; Maher attended a party for potential distributors on July 16 at which Klaess told the group, "I am always looking for big-time opportunities; Tom sees it, I see it. On this whole Martino thing: As I throw these events and run the TV shows and do the radio, Tom produces an enormous amount of leads. So everybody joining our group, leads will come in like you wouldn't believe...."
At that party, a Klaess employee told Maher that Martino could make up to $250,000 a month off of his connection; another Klaess advisor had told him that Klaess was devoting his entire office and staff to the effort for the next four months. Klaess returned Maher's phone call after the July 23 issue had gone to press; he denied that he's devoting his entire office and staff to Efusjon, and also disputed the employee's statement that Martino could make big money. Perhaps too many gulps of Efusjon had made his employees overly effusive; in any case, these mistakes were theirs.
Martino outlines his own concerns about "The Martino Matrix" on his blog. "Over the years," he says in a revised version of the "Westword Cowards" post (the Adam Cayton-Holland photo is now gone), "Westword has made a concerted effort to discredit me in numerous negative articles that were mostly filled with inaccuracies, lies and innuendos. A recent article by Coward/Reporter Jared Jacang Maher accused me of having a financial interest in an energy drink that I featured on my radio and TV shows. This is absolutely NOT TRUE."
This is a point that's important to Martino, because a radio host is not supposed to plug a product in which he has a financial interest without revealing it. But it's absolutely true that on the day "The Martino Matrix" hit the streets, the Efusjon page on Martino's referralist.com led to www.efusjon.com/martinoenergy, and the Efusjon site's list of distributors included Holly Martino, Tom's wife, and linked to email@example.com. (Both sites have since been changed.) Martino asserts that Holly was only a distributor in order for them to get the drink — but it would have been easier for all concerned if he'd just asked his friend Klaess for a case.
"He also wrote that I attended the organizational rally for the energy drink at the Soiled Dove. This is also NOT TRUE." Although Martino's appearance at that June event was touted in advance on blogs and Twitter feeds, we'll take his word for this. Our mistake.
"He also wrote I was in several partnerships with the sponsor behind the energy drink. Again: NOT TRUE." Last fall, Maher reported on a Martino real-estate investment in which Klaess used $285,000 from Martino to purchase a home in northwest Denver. "Just because he's a lender doesn't mean he's a real-estate partner," Klaess says. And in any case, one deal does not equal several. Our mistake.
"Why is it that Cowardly Jared and Westword are hell-bent on trying to make me look bad? I have no idea. Is it professional jealousy? Or just bad journalism? I do know this: THEY DO NOT WANT THE TRUTH AND THEY DO NOT WANT TO OPERATE UNDER THE LIGHT OF DAY. You see, I took my TV Cameras and caught up with Cowardly Jared at a McDonald's. When he saw me approach his car he took off like the coward he is. I asked him for an interview, on camera, where my words could not be distorted. Apparently, that was not attractive to him. I then took my TV Cameras down to the Westword offices to see if anyone else would like to be interviewed, or interview me. The managing editor said he could not be interviewed. Mmmmm. If he can't talk — who can?"
Well, I could have talked, because I was the one who edited "The Martino Matrix," and I was the one who'd been discussing Martino's concerns with him, most recently in an e-mail I'd sent him at 5:31 a.m. August 13 noting that I was on my way out of town for a journalism conference. That afternoon, Martino's crew staked out Maher at McDonald's, then paid a surprise visit to the Westword office.
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"Here's the bottom line," Martino concludes. "They do not want me to interview them and they do not want to interview me — ON CAMERA — because they would not be able to distort words. They'd rather write one-sided stories, slanted the way they like em, and they hope people won't fight back. Guess what? They got the wrong guy here. I will fight back. So, if Westword wants to be fair, I urge them to interview me each and every time they want to do an article about me. And I, in turn, will interview them — ON CAMERA."
You're on, Tom.
And fortunately, Adam Cayton-Holland, whom you mistakenly identified as Jared Jacang Maher, has his own forum, too: The Onion, where he'll offer up his own response in print and video this week (Denver.avclub.com). Bet it will be more energizing than a bottle of Efusjon.. — Patricia Calhoun